American Boy

1977, Movie, NR, 55 mins


In a companion piece to his 1974 short film ITALIANAMERICAN, an extended conversation with his parents, Martin Scorsese here turns the camera on his friend Steven Prince. The people in Scorsese's best films are fascinating talkers, and Prince is no exception: his stories aren't phenomenal, but it's a lot of fun listening to him deliver them.

Prince, a thin, wiry fellow who should be played by Steve Buscemi if a movie is ever made of his life, had brief but memorable parts in several of Scorsese's films; he was a record producer in NEW YORK, NEW YORK (1978) and the guy who sold Travis Bickle his guns in TAXI DRIVER (1975). AMERICAN BOY was filmed at the California house of another friend, actor-comedian George Memmoli. (If you look carefully, you can also spot Scorsese's first wife, Julia Cameron, and Mardik Martin, who wrote several of Scorsese's films.) Prince is the last to arrive, and spends several minutes wrestling playfully with Memmoli. As they settle in, Prince talks about his life, in which he has been a lighting technician, Neil Diamond's tour manager (at the age of 21) and a heroin addict. Scorsese intersperses home movies of Prince as a child as he talks about his family, including his mother, his Aunt Bessie ("a Russian Jew who taught advanced ballbusting") and his father, a career military man (a relationship that prepared Prince for dealing with his draft board).

Prince's years as a heroin addict provide several gruesome but compelling stories, including one about injecting adrenaline into the heart of a woman who overdosed, which is remarkably similar to a scene in Quentin Tarantino's later PULP FICTION (1994). The film concludes with Prince recounting a recent phone conversation with his dying father, a story Scorsese has him repeat twice to make sure he gets all the details right. AMERICAN BOY is certainly valuable as a glimpse into the life of the director, but it's also perfectly entertaining in and of itself. (Profanity.) leave a comment

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